37 years ago in 1972, a passenger plane crashed into the high Andes. Most died, and 15 people survived well over two months in subzero temperatures and no food until they were rescued.
Nando Parrado, a survivor, wrote a book about the ordeal – ‘Miracle in the Andes’, published 2006. Here is an excerpt from an article about the book and the author:
There is a quote from Nando’s book where, after being on the mountain for more than two months, enduring the deaths of 29 friends and family members (including his mother and sister), and upon reaching the summit of a 17,000 foot peak in -30 degree temperatures in jeans and sneakers, expecting to see green valleys below, he only sees more peaks and snow-filled valleys for as far as the eye can see. He writes:
I don’t know how long I stood there, staring. A minute. Maybe two. I stood motionless until I felt a burning pressure in my lungs, and realized I had forgotten to breathe. I cursed God and raged at the mountains. The truth was before me: for all my striving, all my hopes, all my whispered promises to myself and my father, it would end like this. We would all die in these mountains. We would sink beneath the snow, and ancient silence would fall over us, and our loved ones would never know how hard we had struggled to return to them. In that moment, all my dreams, assumptions, and expectations of life evaporated into the thin Andean air. My love for my father swelled in my heart, and I realized that, despite the hopelessness of my situation, the memory of him filled me with joy. It staggered me. The mountains, for all their power, were not stronger than my attachment to my father. They could not crush my ability to love.
I felt a moment of calmness and clarity, and that clarity of mind I discovered a simple, astounding secret: Death has an opposite, but the opposite is not mere living. It is not courage or faith or human will. The opposite of death is love. How had I missed that? How does anyone miss that? Only love can turn mere life into a miracle and draw precious meaning from suffering and fear. For a brief, magical moment, all my fears lifted, and I knew that I would not let death control me. I would walk through the godforsaken country that separated me from my home with love and hope in my heart. I would walk until I had walked all the life out of me, and when I fell, I would die that much closer to my father.